Nintendo's fledgling Pikmin series is, to date, the only original GameCube franchise to come out of the company's first-party development studios. Crafted under the watchful eye of Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo's real-life Mother Brain, the quirky game was one of the highlights in the first wave of GameCube titles to hit following the system's launch in 2001. Given the positive response to the game's unique brand of strategy and smart implementation of Nintendo's patented "cute" factor, it's no surprise that a sequel would appear. Pikmin 2 is the next entry in the burgeoning line, and it aims to build on the promising foundation laid by the original game. The sequel was released in Japan earlier this year and is headed stateside just next week. We got our hands on the final retail version and popped it in to have a look at how it's come together. If you want to see for yourself, check out some new movies and
Pikmin 2's premise puts you in the role of Captain Olimar--quite possibly one of the unluckiest space travelers in Nintendo's roster of characters since Samus Aran--who has very little time to savor the happy ending from the first game, which saw him cheat death (with the help of the Pikmin) and escape from their planet. Bad business decisions on the part of his employers and a none-too-bright assistant mean that Olimar is headed back to planet Pikmin to collect goods to get him out of debt, Animal Crossing-style.
The game's premise serves as a nice complement to its gameplay, which now lets you control Olimar and his assistant Louie. The pair will be able to work together, with one in the lead, or separately as they manage control of the helpful Pikmin hordes on the planet. The basic mechanic has been expanded in the sequel to include two more varieties of Pikmin (bringing the count up to five types) and new abilities for each of the critters.
You'll be able to help out your minions' unique enhancements--available to Olimar and Louie--which temporarily buff them up. In addition, you'll find new areas and puzzle types to test your brain. In many ways, the game plays a lot more like the last level in the original game, which required you to multitask as you controlled the little guys. In addition to the single-player game, you'll find a multiplayer mode for two players that offers competitive and cooperative play. Unfortunately, it appears that the game's e-Card reader support in the Japanese version has been cut.
Pikmin 2 looks and plays well in single- and multiplayer mode, offering improved graphics and a solid frame rate. Animation has been improved, as has the game's audio, which results in a great deal more personality in your minions and in the environment.
Our first impressions of the final US version of Pikmin 2 are certainly positive, which isn't too surprising. The game has appeared to retain all the charm of its predecessor and has incorporated some very promising new gameplay elements as well. Pikmin 2 is currently scheduled to hit stores next week, so look for a full review of the game then.